Life is full of great mysteries: Who built Stonehenge, is there a Loch Ness monster, and where the heck is Jimmy Hoffa.
But I think for many of us, “how long should my skis be” ranks right up there with them.
There’s good reason for confusion. Ski length depends on a number of things: your height and weight, your ability, and the type of skiing you do (racing, freestyle, moguls, etc.)
In general, conventional wisdom is that shorter skis are easier to turn at slower speeds and handle the bumps better. And longer skis are better for speed (they deal with vibration better), crud, and powder. Also, the more advanced your level, the longer your skis can be, too.
Be sure to remember that your weight is more important than your height. Heavier skiers need bigger (or stiffer) skis for greater stability and surface area. Lighter skiers should think about smaller sizes as they may have less power to flex the ski.
To add to the confusion, one manufacturer’s stated size may not be the same as another’s. For example, Brand X skis may seem longer than Brand Y’s, even though the length is supposed to be the same. Use the manufacturer’s size as a rough guide, and take it from there.
So what should you do? First, be honest about your ability, how you plan to use yours skis, and how much you weigh (not always easy, I know). And second, get out there and demo. Different skis of the same length perform, well, differently. And since length can dramatically effect performance, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try the same ski in a couple different lengths.